Fa-Fa-Fa Fabulous fava beans. Hannibal Lector agrees. He considered them a delicacy, and so does most people from Mediterranean countries, from which the plant originates. I also think the big broad beans are great, and really enjoyed watching the plants grow. Fava beans are a new vegetable to me this year, and are top of my ranking for gorgeousness. The plants grow 4 feet tall, with a square stem, and alternating leaves. The flower is the most fabulous part, it has a black velvety eyes, and white winged petals. The bean grows along the stem, jutting straight out, and starting to curve downwards as the pod enlarges. The pod of the fava bean grows between 4 – 6 inches and looks like a giant pea pod, (which people mistaken at market all the time; sorry we don’t grow genetically modified oversized veggies at Wicklow Way). Once the pod is unzipped, by pulling the thread at the flower end, it reveals a pillowy white soft foam texture which cushions the beans perfectly. If I were a teeny tiny person, I would make a hammock out of a fava bean pod. They would call me the fava fairy!
Favas are a bit of a fairy in themselves, because the beans are extremely great for adding nutrients to the soil, especially nitrogen and can fix the soil, like a sprinkling of fairy dust. Favas are used as a cover crop. They are the hardiest legume and can withstand the cold fall and winter conditions. I’m sure once the beans are harvested after having a frost, the big beans are sweet and tender. In addition the beans can be try to use like a lima bean in many dishes.
I prefer eating the beans fresh, and can be used in a variety of dishes. In the field was a popping the broad beans into my mouth like candy, but in fact they taste like a small hint of coffee, this Is due to the tannins in the skin. Once the pod is opened there lies a light white greenish coloured bean, but this is not the preferred edible part. This bean should be blanched and shucked out of the skin to reveal the bright green bean inside, which is soft and juicy, and taste really fresh. Simply sautéed in olive oil/butter with garlic would be my preference because I like to taste vegetables in their best, almost pure essence.
Fava beans are often overlooked and underappreciated because of the time it takes to shell them, however they are praised by chefs everywhere and are worth a try. They can used in dishes with other vegetables that are in season at the same time, and can be made into a puree for dips, embedded with rice, tossed with pasta or as Greg and Elaina did on Sunday night, toss in olive oil and place on the BBQ until the outer pod is charred, then shuck and indulge, like edamame!
As I mentioned earlier, fava beans originated in the kitchens of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Morocco, but are also included in cuisine from Mexico and South America. It is more common to find fava beans dried in these parts of the world because they are protein packed and easier to store for preservation. Another way to find fava beans is in cans, which I recommend staying very far away from. It ruins the bean, turning it into mush, and is loaded with gooey preservatives that wi ll be bad for you. It would be interesting however, to can your own fava beans to save for a winter treat!